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Tricia Singer

Upfitting Cargo Vans with Ergonomics in Mind

Upfitting Cargo Vans with Ergonomics in Mind

In order to keep employee health costs and downtime to a minimum, ergonomics – or fitting a job to the person performing the job – must play a big role in upfitting fleet vehicles.

Many of today’s fleet administrators are tuned in to the importance of employee ergonomics, and an ever-increasing number are focused on keeping their utility fleet vehicle drivers safe and efficient, rather than simply giving them the tools to do their jobs. The mindset has evolved from determining vehicle shelf capacity and how ladders will be stored to asking questions of individual drivers such as:
• Do you need to carry all of your inventory and multiple ladders at all times?
• Which frequently used items can be located near the doors so you don’t need to climb into the vehicle?
• Is there a safer way to transport and access your ladders?
• How can you stay safe on the job without sacrificing productivity?

For cargo van drivers, one of the primary ergonomic issues associated with using that type of vehicle is climbing in and out of it, often while stepping over items on the floor with their arms full of gear. To minimize the need to enter the van – as well as the risk of back or joint injury – drivers should determine the tools and inventory they frequently use and place those items near the doors for easy access from outside the van. This can be accomplished using shelving and bins located within arm’s reach, drawers that open out through the cargo door and hooks for quick grab-and-go items.

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Jim Galligan

Keeping Crews Warm in Winter

Keeping Crews Warm in Winter

Winter is approaching, and for utilities operating in the Frost Belt, keeping crews warm isn’t just a good thing to do – it’s a safety imperative.

For vehicle cab comfort, the choices fall between keeping the engine running and using the truck’s HVAC system, or using an auxiliary heater. As always, the choice depends on the fleet’s desires.

The simplest solution is to keep the engine running, but that’s a costly option for fleet managers focused on keeping down fuel costs. Idle-limiting systems help fleets get over that hurdle. With numerous choices available on the aftermarket, these systems automatically shut down the engine at a work site, periodically turning it on for a few minutes to recharge the batteries to power the PTO and hydraulics. They significantly reduce fuel use, and the length of time the engine runs can be adjusted to ensure the truck’s heater keeps the cab comfortable.

Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, Wash., is testing a system from ZeroRPM (www.zerorpm.com) that has a cab comfort setting to maintain temperatures when the truck is on-site. The system automatically starts the engine and will run an average of five to seven minutes every hour, depending on the level of heat needed, according to Evan Miller, ZeroRPM’s vice president of sales. “The system can provide full HVAC service if [the fleet] wants. There are different applications for heat,” he said.

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Backhoe Loaders With Operator Comfort in Mind

Spec’ing Backhoe Loaders With Operator Comfort in Mind

The backhoe loader is like the Swiss army knife of trenching equipment, empowering utility crews to perform multiple functions with a single machine and operator.

On the rear is a digger that carves out trenches for laying underground gas, water and power lines at appropriate depths. On the front is the loader “bucket” that lifts heavy pipe, sewer lids, dirt and other materials to be moved from one part of the job site to another. The loader is also used to pour dirt back into the trench and smooth the soil in a way that restores the ground to as close to original condition as possible.

As a fleet manager, it’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing backhoe loader specs strictly through the lens of whether or not the machine can do the job. Is it the proper size? Does it offer the right dig depth? Can it carry sufficient weight in the loader? What is the machine’s weight, and how does it impact the combined truck and trailer weight for travel to the job site?

But don’t overlook the human factor. If your crews aren’t comfortable operating your backhoe fleet, you’ll likely experience an increase in worker fatigue, ergonomic injuries and lost productivity.

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Sean M. Lyden

The Impact of Soil Conditions on Digger Derrick Auger Selection

The Impact of Soil Conditions on Digger Derrick Auger Selection

If you don’t have the optimal tool for the job, you might still be able to get the work done. But it often requires more time and effort to perform the task and shortens the life of the tool.

That’s especially the case with augers. An auger is like a drill bit, attached to the boom of a digger derrick and designed to drill into the ground to dig holes in which to set poles. The properly spec’d auger empowers your crews to dig holes as quickly and efficiently as possible.

And one of the major factors in selecting the right auger is the soil type, whether it’s loose dirt, sand, mud, rock or extreme rock. So, here are four important items to consider to ensure your augers are best suited for the various soil conditions your crews may encounter.

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Sean M. Lyden

Evaluating Medium-Duty Powertrain Options for Aerial Trucks

Evaluating Medium-Duty Powertrain Options for Aerial Trucks

Aerial lift trucks are built for low-mileage, high-engine-hour duty cycles, with unique payload requirements. So what should you consider in terms of the powertrain – the engine, transmission and drive axle options – to spec the best chassis for the job? Utility Fleet Professional spoke with Ryan Kloos, chassis technical coordinator for aerial platform manufacturer Terex Corp., to get his advice.

We centered the conversation around an example of a Class 7 chassis, rated up to 33,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), that might be used for a 50-foot aerial application. This is because smaller trucks typically have only a few engines, transmissions and drive axles to choose from. But when you move up to a Class 7 or heavier chassis, the specification process gets much more complex, with some models offering more than a dozen different powertrain configurations that can significantly impact the truck’s highway speed, fuel economy, performance and price.

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Truck Bodies for Utility Fleets?

What’s New in Truck Bodies for Utility Fleets?

Are you looking to empower your crews to get more work done both faster and more safely? Do you want to increase each truck’s legal payload without bumping up to a larger vehicle? Some of the industry’s leading truck body manufacturers are rolling out new products and design enhancements for 2015 to help utility fleets achieve these objectives and more. Following are four new truck body offerings you can expect to see this year.

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Digger Derricks for Maximum Productivity

Terex-2-WebA truck-mounted digger derrick is designed to enable utility companies to dig holes and set poles for electric power transmission and distribution systems.

In an ideal scenario, the derrick should be able to perform both functions – digging and lifting – without your crew having to reposition the truck. This way, your team can get more jobs done in less time, improving service to customers and bolstering your bottom line.

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Sean M. Lyden

Five-Point Checklist for Selecting the Right Service Van for the Job

Nissan-NV-Full-Size-Cargo-Van-WebThe cargo van landscape has undergone an extreme makeover the last few years, providing more options than ever for utility fleet managers to consider when purchasing new vans.

In 2008, there was only one small van available in the U.S. – the Ram C/V Tradesman, a stripped-down version of the Dodge Caravan. But then came the Ford Transit Connect in 2009, with the Nissan NV200, Chevrolet City Express and Ram ProMaster City (expected 2015 model year) also entering the fray.

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Sean M. Lyden

Shedding Weight of Utility Fleet Upfits to Boost Payload and Productivity

ETI-1-WebNew diesel emissions aftertreatment devices – including diesel particulate filters, selective catalytic reduction systems and diesel exhaust fluid tanks – have added considerable weight to medium- and heavy-duty truck chassis in recent years. This has contributed to a payload challenge for many fleet managers, especially for those utility fleets operating Class 7 and 8 digger derrick and aerial platform trucks. They’re looking to keep their trucks within a certain weight range to comply with federal bridge laws and, if possible, avoid having to bump up to a larger chassis that may require a federal excise tax.

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Medium-Duty Chassis for Utility Applications

Daimler-2-WebFleet managers dread receiving a call from an upfitter who says that the chassis delivered to their shop won’t work with the original body design and will require expensive changes to make it right.

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Sean M. Lyden

Selecting Cargo Management Systems for Work Vans

Lyden-3-WebA van’s cargo management system – which may include a partition, shelving, bins, drawers, reel holders, a ladder rack and other accessories – not only secures the payload to protect drivers from unintended projectiles, but also provides technicians with greater visibility and easier access to their tools and equipment. This translates into quicker turnaround on service calls, enhancing customer satisfaction and profit per job.

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Sean M. Lyden

What to Consider When Selecting All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Applications

Trooper PJH6094-WebAll-terrain utility vehicles (ATVs) are built to go where four-wheel-drive pickups and other conventional vehicles cannot, whether on steep hills, through soft mud or over water, to transport workers, supplies, and tools to remote areas for servicing and repairing power lines and other equipment along the right-of-way.

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Sean M. Lyden

Three Mistakes to Avoid When Spec’ing Aerial Platform Trucks

Lyden-Altec-1-WebConsidering that aerial platform trucks, also known as boom or bucket trucks, often carry a hefty six-figure price tag, it pays to confirm that the chassis, body and aerial equipment specifications fit the job before issuing the purchase order. The stakes are high because spec errors result in disruptive downtime, lost productivity and increased safety risks, taking a chunk out of a fleet’s bottom line.

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Service Bodies to Boost Productivity and Profit in Utility Fleets

Lyden-4-WebService bodies, also known as utility beds, mounted onto light- and medium-duty truck chassis provide utility contractors with easy and secure access to their tools, equipment and parts to do their work more efficiently – and profitably.

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